By Christin Senior | October 26, 2020 2:51 pm
Second-year medical student Gabriel Krivenko

Sudden cardiac death is the most common medical cause of death in athletes. About one in 40,000 children will have their hearts stop during exercise and one in five carry a gene that predisposes them to sudden cardiac arrest. Through his research, second-year UCF medical student Gabriel Krivenko is advocating for widescale echocardiogram (ECG) screening for teen athletes to help detect any heart abnormalities before they participate in sports.

Krivenko was recently invited to present his research at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) virtual meeting and was among 10 .presenters selected for the Young Investigator Award. Krivenko was the only medical student this year and the first UCF medical student to have been nominated for this award. An article about his presentation also appeared in MedPage Today, a national medical news publication.

The AAP meeting is the largest pediatric conference in the U.S. with over 8,000 attendees, and this year featured the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who delivered the keynote address. With the conference held virtually this year due to the pandemic, Krivenko delivered his study on large-scale ECG screening for high school athletes via Zoom.

“Being recognized by the AAP in this way has been incredibly humbling and I’m really excited that they provided a platform for me to share my research with a national audience,” Krivenko said.

His study was a part of his FIRE – Focused Inquiry & Research Experience project, a mandatory research study for UCF medical students in the first and second years of medical school. With the guidance of his research mentor, Dr. Gul Dadlani, pediatric cardiologist at Nemours Children’s Hospital, Krivenko partnered with non-profit organization Who We Play For, which provided ECG tests for middle and high school students in Brevard County. The nonprofit was formed in honor of 15-year-old athlete Rafe Maccarone who died of cardiac arrest in 2007 while playing soccer in Cocoa Beach. Following his death, Brevard became the first county in Florida to require all high school students get an ECG test before starting sports.

Of the 5,877 athletes tested, 199 had abnormalities requiring follow-up care and eight had critical heart disease carrying a risk for sudden cardiac death. Of the eight, six underwent life-saving surgical procedures.

“Our study shows that ECG screening programs are feasible in large school districts for student athletes and they can be done at a low cost when given sufficient manpower and appropriate access to follow-up care,” said Krivenko, who wants to become a pediatric cardiologist.

“I think it’s important for us as future physician to do studies like these,” Krivenko said. “to show there is a way of doing something that can save lives and help countless others. For example, if there’s a school district in the future, who feels passionate about this and sees its benefits, then we’ve been able to show them it can be done and give them an opportunity to copy it, or even make it better.”

“Being recognized by the AAP in this way has been incredibly humbling and I’m really excited that they provided a platform for me to share my research with a national audience,”

– Gabe Krivenko

The study has been submitted for publication in the Academy’s Pediatrics journal.

“We also have follow-up studies that we are beginning to start to compare our method for reading EKGs to other methods that are specific to competitive young athletes,” he added.  “Osceola County has passed a similar mandate and have also partnered with Who We Play For, as well. So this is another data set that we will have access to and hope to take advantage of for future studies.” 

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